Butterfly bushes and winter of 2014

three4rdJune 15, 2014


Has anyone lost any butterfly bushes? The severe winter really took a toll on mine. For years I had one that was quite large and actually came up each spring from the dormant stems about 3-4 feet off the ground. This year when I saw there was no growth appearing even after a hard pruning, I pretty much cut it down to the base. I was encouraged when I saw new shoots coming up, but very atypically for this usually vigorous grower - the shoots are spindly and not looking too energetic. Do you think I should continue to hang in there with it or just replace it? I'm wondering if there was too much root damage since the base of the plant was buried under ice and snow for literally months during the winter we just had. Recently I am trying some super phosphate fertilizer to see if I can encourage some better growth. My other bushes are coming up pretty nicely from the base.

Also, if I do replace what was my largest one that isn't doing well, I want to put in one that grows the largest. Is there any particular species that grows the tallest? I'm thinking probably davidii but thought I'd check. I will sure miss seeing those masses of butterflies this summer that gathered around this bush that used to grow to probably 6-7 feet and quite wide also.


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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

We lost our big butterfly bush in the front bed - it was a sort of tree-substitute and was 8-10' tall. We also lost a smaller one (~4-5' tall) in the bed on the south side of the driveway. We've dug out the big one (HUGE excavation required!) and replanted that area with other things, but haven't decided what to do with the midsize one yet - will probably replace that with a smaller one later in the summer when there are more choices available in garden centers.

Have you considered a heptacodium as an alternative? It's later to bloom, blooming in September here just as the Monarch butterflies are migrating and they go nuts over it! It can be grown as a tree or shrub. We grow ours as a small tree. It came through the winter just fine - only a bit of winterkill on branch ends. A couple of small butterfly bushes, asters, and a heptacodium would provide lots of attraction for butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds.

Heptacodium with Monarchs:

    Bookmark   June 15, 2014 at 10:46AM
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mxk3(Zone 6 SE MI)

Mine seem to be fine this year.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2014 at 4:35PM
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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

Mine have finally come back from the roots. I wouldn't bother fertilizing, they just need some time. Try pinching them once they get close to a foot tall and they should branch out and bloom just fine.
I'm a big fan of black knight and red royal, they both get about six feet tall after being cut to the ground in spring (I have bulbs etc planted underneath so need them out of the way)
My heptacodium never attracts many butterflies. I wonder if it's a matter of timing or if there are other things they prefer. It's a nice shrub regardless.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2014 at 5:12PM
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I have 4 and doubted 2 would return. Luckily they all did although one is so tiny I doubt it will last. It's by my hog of a maple.

Wow what great plant that heptacodium is! Beautiful
Pics! Going to research that one, thanks.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2014 at 5:33PM
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All my Buddleia davidii/'Black Knight' butterfly bushes returned despite the harsh winter. They were quite a bit later coming up than in prior years but then, so was everything else. All mine were grown from seed via winter sowing and are likely more hardy than nursery-grown plants so I kept my fingers crossed waiting for them to send up new growth. All have but I'm guessing they may not grow as tall as in prior years due to the continuing cool weather.

My son works in construction and told me they found frozen ground 2 ft. down earlier this year. Anything that can survive that and come up again gets my vote for "hardy perennial."

    Bookmark   June 15, 2014 at 8:36PM
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Thanks for the replies. As it turns out, the stem of the bush appears to be rotting, which would seem to explain the poor nature of the growth that was trying to come up. I don't think any additional growth is forthcoming. I suppose I could leave it in for the summer and even see what happens next year, but if it's not going to put out shoots this summer, I can't imagine that there will be anything next year, especially if the stem is dying. I'm thinking dig it out (from what woodyoak has described about the excavation job needed, I'm a bit leery of how hard this one will be to get out...depends on how substantial a root system they put out) and then put in a new one.

Thanks also for the suggestion of heptacodium, but I still like the flowers on the butterfly bush better.


    Bookmark   June 15, 2014 at 8:40PM
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Hello - I'm a first-time poster here. I have two large butterfly bushes that have done exceedingly well in the two summers that I've owned them (we purchased our current property in the spring of 2012). But, as of July 7, the trees are still dormant / or dead. Not sure if I should leave them to see if they come back next year or resolve myself to the fact that they are gone, remove them and redesign that part of the garden. Does anyone else still have bare butterfly bushes this late in the season? I'm in the Toronto area.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 4:43PM
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I lost my 6 year old Royal Red Butterfly Bush to the hard winter. There were a couple of tiny sprouts near the ground earlier but they too are gone now. We shovel pruned it and I will be planting another Butterfly Bush in the same place. My next door neighbor also lost one. Hers was a Profusion White that was about 2 years old.

On the plus side, my Black Knight, which is about to bloom, Pink Delight, No Id that was here when we moved in and Dubonnet are alive and growing. Because all of them died back to the ground this year, I will be late getting flowers.


    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 6:46PM
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vasue(7A Charlottesville)

Like Gardenweed, most everything here was considerably delayed in starting up after a tough Winter & on-again-off-again Spring. Our tall butterfly bushes are chance seedlings of one next door, so self sown, and we've never pruned nor deadheaded them in the 12+ years since they began. They must be 12' high at least & arch over another 4'. Began to be concerned when they hadn't leafted out by early June. A week later, leaves budded out all over & now they're in full bloom. Younger plants may require more time, having less resources upon which to draw. Wouldn't count them out.

Normally evergreen Sky Pencil holly's leaves freeze-burned & died from the extended cold. It releafed a month ago & no sign now that it ever suffered. Gardenias' leaves died, too, and are just now beginning to bud out from the original branches.

After many years of gardening, tend to give plants plenty of time to recuperate, having seen some arise from the ashes as much as a year later...

    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 7:09PM
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MaeT(z5 NL, Canada)

I lost mine this year. I had it for many years and really enjoyed it when it bloomed and it would be covered with butterflies. It usually grew about 8 ft tall. Just dug it up and got rid of it. Actually its in the yard waiting for hubby to take it away ( its the least he can do seeing as I worked so hard to dig it out)

    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 7:44PM
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luckyladyslipper(MA 5b-6a)

I lost my 7-year-old Black Knight this year; a real heart-breaker. I loved putting those flowers in bouquets. I planted Dubonnet last fall, and that one is doing fine. Go figure - the tender, new guy does fine and the old, established one gives out.

Thorpesgirl - my guess is that you're going to have to start over. I'll think of you when I buy my replacement Black Knight.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 8:15PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Thorpesgirl, your Buddleia is no doubt dead. It was a very rough winter for marginally hardy woody plants. Sorry for your loss, but it's part of gardening. I've got a gallon ziploc full of plant tags from years of nursery purchases - including online nurseries like Blue. and S.R. I wouldn't be surprised if half or more are dead and gone. Needless to say, this has curbed my enthusiasm for spending large sums of money on fancy cultivars (the exceptions being Hostas and Daylilies - haven't lost any of those - yet).

My 9 year old Black Knight and Pink Delight are alive and growing, but they were off to a feeble start this year and they're a couple feet shorter than usual.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2014 at 11:38AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

All of my Buddleias made it through the winter but they definitely were set back.
They all came back from the base.

I have an established âÂÂAdonis Blueâ that is doing the best, but itâÂÂs short and sparse. Just forming flower buds. I think I should have pinched it back when it was smaller. I will start deadheading soon and that should help.

I planted small pots of âÂÂPink Delightâ and âÂÂBlack Knightâ in the fall. PD is doing better than BK. BK is the one I almost lost. And now it is not only small, but it is the only Buddleia in the yard that has severe insect damage. Oddly no other plants around it have been bothered. The PD is about 3 ft away.

I have a âÂÂPeacockâ that is still in too little sun but itâÂÂs hanging in there.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2014 at 12:35PM
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Michaela .:. thegarden@902 .:. (Zone 5b - Iowa)

I have a similar question about butterfly bushes so I hope it's okay that I ask it here! I have a bicolor butterfly bush that I planted in May and I just love it. Has bloomed once for me and has grown quite well already. I really don't want to lose this so I'm already worrying about winter.

I am wondering what kind of winter protection you guys in zone 5 and colder give yours? It's very heavily mulched and in a very large corner garden that is protected by the house. Any one have any suggestions for how I can protect this BB so it survives our awful winters?


    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 3:35PM
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